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The city of Pinsk, Belarus


The originality of Pinsk is a rare combination of Polesye's virgin nature on the right bank of the river Pina coupled with the unique colouring of distinctive town and his inhabitants. Famous Russian poet Alexander Blok once compared Pinsk with a fairy Kityezh town.


Pinsk, Belarus

The first record of Pinsk in ancient Russian chronicles was made in the year 1097. It was the second in terms of significance town of the Turovo-Pinsk principality in ancient Russia right up till the creation of independent Pinsk principality in the year 1174. The little but majestic Pinsk principality ceased its existence in the first quarter of the 16th century after the death of the Orthodox Duke Fyodor Ivanovich Yaroslavich of the Duke Borovsky family. In 1581 Pinsk was granted by the Magdebourg justice the right to self-government and his personal coat of arms was established: golden bow and arrow on purple shield.


Pinsk, Belarus

Since the ancient times the town has been the spiritual center in the vast expanses of Polesye. According to a legend, before the christening of Poleshooks (inhabitants of Polesye) stone crosses swimmed up the river Pripyat to Pinsk's walls from Kiev. This miracle sped up christening of Polesye pagans, belonging to Slavonic tribe of Dregovichi. In the 13th century the ancient Belarus Orthodox Leshchensky cloister was founded there. Among the saints, whose names are pronounced with a special pride under the vaults of Orthodox Pinsk temples, there are such, who had direct relation to Pinsk and it's neighbourhood: Saint Martyr Afanasiy Filipovich and Sacred Macarius, the abbot of Pinsk. There were about 16 Orthodox churches in Pinsk in the 16th century. Unfortunately, none of those sacred places survived up to nowadays. However, in 2001 on the Pinsk land a new majestic St.Fyodor Cathedral rose, built up in the best traditions of Russian-Byzantine style.


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The most significant of the preserved architecture memorials of Pinsk is the Franciscan abbey (14-18th centuries). The interior of it's church of the Virgin Mary Assumption amazes you by its loftiness, richness of the altars and magnificence of the paintings. The Cathedral reflects the best features of Belarus baroque.


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The 17th century reserved to the progeny the majestic Jesuit collegium inaugurated in 1656. Many of famous people who later on glorified the Alma mater far away from Pinsk studied there. In honour of St Andrew Bobola, who preached there long time ago, Catholics organize annual pilgrim tours across Pinsk. Many secrets are hidden in the collegium's underground semi-covered up with earth passages, that connected it with other places of Pinsk...


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You can also enjoy the sight of the 17-18th century Karol Baromeus church of Communist order cloister (the single one in Eastern Europe). Many concepts of this religious order founded in the Middle Ages in Germany were taken later on by Marx and Engels as the base of their doctrine. Nowadays there is a concert hall within the precincs of the church, opened for all chamber music-lovers .


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Streets of Pinsk are remembering many things... Wars and insurrections grinded the town over and over. In 1648 Pinsk was ruined during the suppression of the mutiny of the town-dwellers, who joined the Cossacks of Bogdan Khmelnitsky. Many people of the town were killed then.

Biographers of Swedish King Karl XII assert that being effected by the panoramic sight of Pinsk marshes, seen from the tower of church in 1706, he said "Here is my death". The Swedish army also contributed its mite in ruining Vyshnevetsky castle and some other Pinsk buildings.

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During WWI the German kaiser Vilhelm visited then occupied Pinsk. According to the clauses of Riga peace agreement (1921) the town was a part of Poland in 1921-1939. During WWII more than 30 000 inhabitants of Pinsk were killed by Nazi.

The story of Pinsk would be incomplete without pages describing nearly 500-year history of Judaic community in the town over Pina. It was founded in 1506. As experts on Judaic history say, Pinsk though small in size gave Jewish people scattered all over the world more than some other capitals. Pinsk's suburb Karolin is a real "Mecca" for hasids who are the followers of rabbi Aaron Perlov, who established here his religious trend in the 18th century.


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The founders of the State of Israel are closely tied with Pinsk. The future first president of Israel Haim Weitzman came there from Motol village at the age of eleven. His first steps towards scientific discoveries (later on he made about a hundred discoveries in chemistry) were made at Pinsk specialized school. A little girl, who afterwards would be named as "a single man in the Israel knesset", the future Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir, walked up and down old streets near the Pina river.

Nowadays population of Pinsk is about 130 000 people. The town being a park, full of verdure and flowers, the town being a beach, full of blue rivers' coolness in the summer heat, the town being a poem, where nice people are charming you with their Polesye originality, Pinsk, as many centures ago, lives his unhurried life, giving people a joy of contact with him.


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By Oleg Babinets
& Tatyana Khvagina
January 2002

Photo Gallery of Pinsk city



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